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Driven: Ford refocuses with new Focus small car

Ford Focus to adopt specific focus in flatlining small-car segment next year

14 Dec 2018

FORD Australia says its fourth-generation Focus will compete in a flatlining sub-$40,000 small-car segment next year, with the new model’s three-grade line-up adopting a specific focus that could expand in response to buyer demand.
Sales of the Focus have taken a significant hit this year in the lead up to the new model’s release, with 3783 examples sold to the end of November – a 31.2 per cent drop over the 5499 deliveries made during the same period in 2017.
Nonetheless, the Focus has retained its position as the 10th best-selling small car in the sub-$40,000 segment, trailing the Toyota Corolla (33,009 units), Mazda3 (28,780), Hyundai i30 (26,416), Volkswagen Golf (17,856) and Kia Cerato (17,414), among others.
Speaking to GoAuto this week at the Focus national media launch in Healesville, Victoria, Ford Australia and New Zealand president and chief executive officer Kay Hart would not be drawn on sales projections for the new model but suggested its once-dominant segment would flatline as SUVs sales continue to rise.
“From where we see the industry going, we see it fairly flat, in terms of that segment,” she said. “We continue to watch it and see the moves, but it’ll be interesting to see take-up on things like the Active and obviously the continued move into SUV.”
In the year to date, sales of small cars have dropped by 7.4 per cent in a new-vehicle market that is down 1.9 per cent, while small SUVs are more popular than ever, up 21.0 per cent.
When asked if the Focus will become a high-volume player in its segment, given the ongoing dominance of its five aforementioned rivals, Ms Hart said its selective positioning could be a hurdle.
“We do not have the complete line-up to go across that entire segment – in that small car – but we’re happy with where we’re competing,” she said.
The Focus hatch line-up starts from $25,990 before on-road costs for the entry-level Trend, rising to $28,990 and $29,990 for the mid-range ST-Line and Active respectively, while the flagship Titanium costs $34,490. The only wagon variant is the $30,990 ST-Line.
As such, a sub-$25,000 Ambiente grade could be added under the Trend, with such a hatch recently receiving Australian Design Rules (ADR) approval, but Ms Hart was quick to end speculation despite the apparent opportunity.
“We have no plans at this stage,” she said. “We’ve homologated the vehicle, (but) that doesn’t mean we will necessarily bring it in.
“I think there’s definitely room in the segment at that level, and we’ll just continue to evaluate whether or not we see the Ambiente fitting into it in the future.”
The Ambiente grade listed in the Australian government’s Green Vehicle Guide uses a naturally aspirated three-cylinder petrol engine and not the launch line-up’s EcoBoost turbocharged unit that produces 134kW of power at 6000rpm and 240Nm of torque at 1600rpm.
While the atmo powertrain’s outputs are unknown, it appears to be available with six-speed manual and automatic transmissions, with Ms Hart leaving the door open for extra engine options and a three-pedal set-up in the future, saying “(we) continue to evaluate what is available and whether that fits”.
An eight-speed torque-converter automatic transmission with paddle shifters is mated to all launch variants, with drive exclusively sent to the front wheels.
She did, however, rule out offering the luxury-focused Vignale grade, which is available overseas and sits above the Titanium, given its low volume potential.
“Just in terms of where we see the segment and volume and our ability to compete, we really think it’s in the Titanium at the premium end,” Ms Hart said.
Meanwhile, Ford Australia marketing manager Danni Winter said the company expected the ST-Line and Active to be the most popular grades in the line-up, followed by the Trend and Titanium.
“We expect that customers will grow more into the ST-Line, with the sports orientation, and then then the Active, with the SUV exterior but not necessarily all the attributes of a traditional SUV,” she said. “So, we’re planning around those two being the biggest sellers.”
The ST-Line wagon marks Ford Australia’s first foray into small load-luggers, with Ms Winter confident that it is the right time to enter the segment, even when its rivals are pulling out.
“We think we’ve got quite unique proposition with the ST-Line wagon; it’s quite different from other competitors in the segment,” she said. “The market’s craving a different exterior and interior package, and this has both.
“Wagon is still quite a small portion of total small-car (sales). It may grow as a consequence of us entering … time will tell. Whether or not we expand beyond one wagon depends on how the market receives the product.”
As reported, standard equipment in the Trend includes an active grille, front air curtains, underbody panels, an integrated rear spoiler, dusk-sensing headlights, LED daytime running lights, rain-sensing windscreen wipers and 16-inch alloy wheels.
Inside, an 8.0-inch touchscreen Sync3 infotainment system, satellite navigation with live traffic, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support, Bluetooth connectivity, DAB+ digital radio, a six-speaker sound system, voice control, a Wi-Fi hotspot, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a leather-trimmed steering wheel, comfort seats and driver lumbar support.
Advanced driver-assist systems extend to autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian and cyclist detection, lane-keep assist, a reversing camera, rear parking sensors, hill-start assist, a manual speed limiter and cruise control, plus six airbags.
The ST-Line adds a honeycomb grille insert, a bodykit, a 10mm-lower sports suspension, LED foglights with cornering functionality, LED tail-lights, auto-folding side mirrors with heating and puddle lights, chrome dual exhaust tailpipes, rear privacy glass and 17-inch alloy wheels.
The interior picks up a flat-bottom steering wheel, sports seats, red stitching, dual-zone climate control, keyless entry and start, wireless smartphone charging, a black roofliner and alloy pedals. Tyre pressure monitoring is exclusive to the ST-Line.
The wagon also features roof rails, a two-tier boot floor, load-compartment loops, a rear tonneau cover and remote seat release. With its split-fold second row stowed, 1653L of cargo capacity is available.
Compared to the Trend, the Active gains 34mm-higher ground clearance, silver front and rear skid plates, unique bumpers, black wheelarch cladding, a honeycomb grille insert, LED foglights with cornering functionality, chrome dual exhaust tailpipes and 17-inch alloy wheels.
‘Rugged’ cloth upholstery with embroidered Active logos, Nordic Blue stitching, Active-branded scuff plates, dual-zone climate control, keyless entry and start, and wireless smartphone charging feature internally.
Furthermore, Slippery and Trail are available alongside the Focus line-up’s three other driving modes – Eco, Normal and Sport – which adjust vehicle settings while on the move.
Over the Trend, the Titanium adds chrome exterior trim, LED tail-lights, auto-folding side mirrors with heating and puddle lights, rear privacy glass and 18-inch alloy wheels.
Adaptive LED headlights with auto-levelling, scrolling LED indicators and high-beam assist are also included but can be added to the ST-Line and Active as part of their $1800 Design Pack, with the latter also picking up rear privacy glass.
Dual-zone climate control, keyless entry and start, wireless smartphone charging, six-way power-adjustable front seats with heating, leather upholstery, a nine-speaker Bang & Olufsen sound system with a subwoofer, and LED ambient lighting are standard in the Titanium, which can be optioned with a retractable head-up display for $300.
Active safety features expand to include steering assist, adaptive cruise control with stop and go functionality, speed sign recognition, blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert.
The Trend, ST-Line and Active can be optioned with this full suite as part of the $1250 Driver Assistance Pack, while park assist can be added to the Titanium for $1000.
Prestige paintwork costs $550 for all variants, while a panoramic sunroof attracts a $2000 premium for the ST-Line, Active and Titanium.
The Focus comes with Ford Australia’s recently-introduced five-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty, while up to seven years of roadside assistance is offered alongside capped-price servicing.
While the Trend and ST-Line grades are launching this month, the Active and Titanium variants will not enter showrooms until the first half of next year as part of a staggered rollout.

2019 Ford Focus pricing*
Trend hatch (a) $25,990
ST-Line hatch (a) $28,990
Active hatch (a) $29,990
ST-Line wagon (a) $30,990
Titanium hatch (a) $34,490

*Excludes on-road costs

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